Today, traffic accidents take the lives of about 1.25 million people every year, and injure 20-50 million more. In addition, half of fatalities on the road are “vulnerable road users” like pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists. These incidents continue to drive carmakers to seek even more advanced approaches to vehicle safety through new tools and services.
While there are still challenges to overcome, technology in vehicles is increasingly the superhero and not the villain as it relates to increasing vehicle and driver safety, and is helping enable new approaches to protect lives. Consider that the latest technologies in vehicles possess superhero powers such as vision in the dark, the ability to sense objects ahead and around corners, and acute sensors to anticipate and react to situations with lightning speed. As automotive suppliers and manufacturers work together to develop and test semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicles, there is an industry-wide focus on driver-assist technologies and their integral role in the connected car safety ecosystem.
There are many enablers and infrastructure mile markers still to pass on the road to autonomous driving – dedicated short-range communications (DSRC), LTE, and 5G technologies are still being rolled out and the front runner standards are still being debated. Initially, our vehicles will act as sponges, collecting information about driving conditions. When vehicles become connected information hubs with vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication capabilities, they will be fully enabled to communicate with other cars and their surroundings to deliver alerts to drivers and vehicles. For example, this integration and communication between vehicles provides information about traffic lights, blind intersections, signage, and road conditions to warn drivers of hazards beyond the line of sight.
Another illustration of V2V capabilities in action is the car’s ability to collect traffic sign information and send that information to the cloud. Servers on the cloud aggregate what many different vehicles have calculated as the value of that traffic sign and then disperse this information to other vehicles on the road, allowing fellow drivers to benefit from the collection of information. The technology optimally complements advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), and together can dramatically improve safety by alerting drivers about potentially hazardous conditions ahead. For example, a vehicle that has encountered a patch of black ice can share information on the location of the condition with surrounding vehicles. In turn, vehicles that are approaching the area can activate tire traction control and safely navigate the winter road conditions.
ADAS solutions are already offered in many of today’s cars. However, automakers face the challenge of understanding the technology’s efficiency and effectiveness. New data-driven developments are helping automakers better understand system gaps and course correct. Today, a driver may need to intervene in a situation where a car using adaptive cruise control does not detect a stopped vehicle ahead and adjust its speed. With data-driven solutions that have the ability to collect billions of miles of real-world usage data, the car will learn information from the driver’s response to the delayed vehicle detection and response, and upload data to the cloud for further analysis to understand the instance and how to eliminate the need for driver intervention. This data-driven approach enables system learning and a safer, more reliable vehicle.
Automakers by nature and by design are focused on driver safety. One example where HARMAN is working with OEMs is in the area of augmented navigation. It’s an industry-first approach in which a camera displays a real-life street view layered with an augmented reality view of street names, parking structures, and traffic signals on the flat screen display inside the vehicle. In this unique offering, the car is able to blend live video with additional annotation to enhance the driver experience, such as calling attention to a parking garage when the driver has reached an urban destination and cannot find street parking. We expect this solution to be on the market within the next two years.
The good news for drivers and automakers is that driver assist technologies are in high demand with some even becoming standard, as seen recently in the case of automatic braking. In addition, last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration announced $60 million in grants for advanced transportation and congestion management technologies to fund innovative transportation technologies that will improve safety, efficiency, system performance, and infrastructure return on investment (ROI). This government initiative reiterates the importance and need to advance connected safety solutions.
The industry is taking action to tackle liability and driver safety challenges in pursuit of advancing the development and realization of the connected car. Like any superhero, there are challenges to face and villains to overcome. The ability to consistently monitor and learn from potential safety risks in the field is going to be a key solution. If our hero, technology, prevails, data-driven technologies will usher industry-wide resolutions for powerful V2V capabilities, more intuitive connected car safety features, and fully autonomous vehicles.
1. “Road Traffic Injuries.” World Health Organization. Accessed April 05, 2016. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs358/en/.